A Virginia-based non-profit group plans to start resettling refugees in Iowa next year. The state’s reputation for welcoming refugees dates back to the Vietnam War. Earlier this year, three agencies that sponsored refugees either suspended operations or cut back. Now, the State Department has authorized a new organization to fill the gap with a Des Moines office.
Peter Limon is with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “Our whole purpose is to give refugees as good a start as we can, get them resettled, get them acclimated, get them culturalized and then get them work,” Limon says. “If we find out that an Iowa city turns out to be a great place, we could open another office there and then we’d have two offices in Iowa.”
Recent refugees have been fleeing from troubles in Burma, Iraq, Bhuthan and east Africa. The first arrivals are expected in Iowa around February. With more than 30 offices around the country, Limon says the agency will open its Des Moines office later this month.
“The reputation in Iowa and Des Moines is that it’s a welcoming location for refugees, the cost of living, jobs, when you measure everything apartments, housing, transportation, all of those things combined make it a good place to resettle refugees.” Limon says they plan to start with resettling about 100 refugees a year and increase the arrivals to nearly 400 a year.